horror

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I recently watched the original Japanese ‘Godzilla’ back to back with its re-edited American counterpart (a hilarious exercise in shoehorning a character in). If you’ve never seen either I recommend the Japanese version, though both are currently available on Netflix Instant.

Later Godzilla films ditched serious reflection for more model-scale smashing and rubber suit fights, but the original is a melancholy rumination on the horrors atomic weapons wreak, made by a country still reeling from their own terrible experience. It’s surprising how well the original effects hold up; sure, it’s easy to tell when Godzilla’s just a hand puppet, but he’s always matted in neatly and the scale models destroyed look realistic, at least enough to charm. The audio work is also striking; given the limitations of physical editing in 1954, when mixing audible dialogue and basic background noise was challenging enough, the sound engineers managed to create a unique sound and ominous presence for Godzilla through audio alone. In an excerpt from “Japan’s Favorite Mon-star: the Unauthorized Biography of “The Big G”, Steve Ryfle explains the insanely ridiculous recording process:

“The audio technology utilized in Godzilla was less than primitive. The optical recording equipment had only four audio tracks, and of those, one was used for the principal dialogue, one for the background chatter, ambient noise, and the sounds of tanks and planes and one for Godzilla’s roar and footsteps (these effects were so loud they required an independent track to avoid bleeding over the music and other audio). That left only one track for the music and the crashing sounds of Godzilla’s destruction.

Unbelievable as it sounds today, the musical score and the foley (mechanical) sound effects of Godzilla’s final, wanton rampage through Tokyo were recorded live, at the same time. At the recording session, Ifukube conducted the NHK Philharmonic orchestra while a foley artist watched Godzilla’s attack projected on a movie screen, using pieces of tin, concrete debris, wood and other materials to simulate the sounds of the monster walking through buildings. It was a precarious process – -if the foley artist missed a cue even slightly, a new take would be needed for the entire scene, but somehow it resulted in a seamless work of discord.”

THEY RECORDED THE FOLEY AND ORCHESTRA LIVE TOGETHER. The ONLY time I’ve seen that done was as part of a live screening of Guy Maddin’s ‘Brand Upon The Brain!’, and even then that was performance art, NOT studio necessity. Today digital editing makes slapping together and mixing down 20 tracks a piece of cake, but back then you got creative or it didn’t happen. And what of Godzilla’s roar itself? As opposed to something like ‘Jurassic Park’s dinosaur sounds, which were an amalgam of existing animal noises, Ichiro Mitsunawa (‘Godzilla’s sound-effects man) wanted something more unreal:

“Ishiro Honda came up with the idea that Godzilla should roar, regardless of the fact that reptiles do not have vocal chords, with this rationale: “Godzilla underwent some mutation. He is beyond our imagination.” Sound recordist Hisashi Shimonaga and sound-effects man Ichiro Mitsunawa were put in charge of creating the monster’s roar, but Ifukube immediately took an interest in devising sound effects for the film and became involved in the process. “From our first meeting together, I already sensed what an amazing musician he [Ifukube] was,” Honda said. “He asked us what certain special sound effects we were going to use in certain parts of the movie, and about all kinds of details concerning the sound.”

Mitsunawa started out by recording the roars of lions, tigers, condors and other birds and zoo animals, then playing them back at various speeds (the original King Kong roar was created the same way), but none of these proved satisfactory. Eventually, someone hit upon the idea of using a contrabass (double bass), one of the lowest-pitched string musical instruments in existence. Ifukube arranged to borrow a contrabass from the prestigious Japan Art University’s music department, and the roar was created by loosening the instrument’s strings and rubbing them with a leather glove. The sound was recorded and then played back at reduced speed, resulting in the melancholy, ear-splitting cry of the original Godzilla. This technique became Toho’s standard method for creating monster roars for years to come (Godzilla’s cry, however, would be sped up and changed to a high-pitched whine in the 1960′s and 70′s films); today, monster roars are recorded digitally.

Conflicting stories exist as to how the ominous sound of Godzilla’s footsteps was created. Legend has it that a Japanese kettle drum was struck with a knotted rope, and the sound was recorded and processed through an echo box; Akira Ifukube, in an interview with Cult Movies, said the footsteps were created with a primitive amplifier that emitted a loud clap when struck, designed by a Toho sound engineer. But several Japanese texts reveal the footsteps were actually the “BOOM!” of a recorded explosion with the “OOM!” clipped off at the end and processed through an electronic reverb unit, producing a sound resembling a gigantic bass drum – or a monster’s foot crashing down on the Tokyo pavement.”

The amount of creativity and work that goes into good sound and foley design deserves more glowing recognition, but because the best stuff seamlessly adds to the viewer’s experience, it’s easy to overlook.

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Considering a fondness for cheesy Italian giallo, pulpy horror movies and luchador-styled masked superheros, plus having sought out the original Fantomàs and Les Vampires series, how did I not come across Italian photo-comic ‘Killing’ (aka Satanik en Francès) sooner?

The premise is pretty straightforward- sadistic masked killer Killing goes around offing mostly undressed ladies in a variety of gruesome ways, while the detective chasing him remains just a step behind. (All photos courtesy of Dr. Odio’s Flickr stream, which has many more images.)

It lacks the random charm of ‘Les Vampires’ and class of ‘Fantòmas’, but seems fairly standard for Italian horror. Which is to say it’s wildly misogynistic and ultraviolent. Fun fact: Italian apparently has a female form of ‘bastard’, used quite liberally here!

Killing was also a big pop figure in Turkish movies, going under the name Kilink and starring in ‘Soy ve Öldür’, aka ‘Strip & Kill’, which hewed closely to the comic.

This was followed in typical Turkish fashion by movies that bore little resemblance to the original while infringing on multiple copyrights, like ‘Kilink Ucan Adama Karsi’, aka ‘Killing vs. The Flying Man’, who’s basically Turkish Superman.

A now-defunct site called ‘Go Sadistik’ created this trailer promising oodles of Sadistik comics and videos, but alas, no trace remains.

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I’m not sure what’s my favorite- the part where the punks are slam dancing in the middle of a New York street (before getting slammed into by an evil hovercraft), or when the rich jerks’ car gets sucked under (by an evil hovercraft). You know what, it’s actually where the golfer’s security guard gets thrown forward right into a tree (by an evil hovercraft. Hovercraft.)

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“Is the Sentinal the only thing that stand between the mortal world and the torment of hell? Between happiness…and HORROR?!”

the sentinal, the horror
(This image comes up exactly as the narrator says ‘horror’. Clearly a denzin of Hell.)

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Surprise Asteroid Makes Near-Miss of Earth

Wait! Did you hear that whooshing sound?

A small asteroid buzzed by Earth Monday, though only real astronomy geeks in the Pacific would have noticed.

The rock, estimated to be no more than 200 feet wide, zoomed past our planet at an altitude of 40,000 miles at 1:44 p.m. universal time — or 8:44 EST.

Dubbed 2009 DD45, it was discovered only on Friday by Australian astronomers.

Forty thousand miles may sound like a lot, but it’s only about one-seventh of the way to the moon, and less than twice as far out as many telecommunications satellites.

Had 2009 DD45 hit the Earth, it would have exploded on or near the surface with the force of a large nuclear blast — not very reassuring when you consider humanity had only about three days’ notice.

The link is to a more scientific article, but the text above is from Fox News, whence also came this gem:

According to the Australian news Web site Crikey, the asteroid is likely to be drawn in by Earth’s gravity, meaning it may return for many more near misses in the future.

First of all, Fox News gets ITS news from a WEB SITE called ‘Crikey’ (which you have to shout in an Australian accent). Secondly, A HUGE FUCKING ROCK ALMOST HIT EARTH YESTERDAY AND NO ONE THOUGHT TO TELL ANYONE?!?!?! Perhaps it was for the best, given my all-caps reaction after the rock passed by safely. Still though, we now know should anything terrible really be going down we will not be told until after it happens, alive or dead. The space chunk is estimated to come back about 2029, so in your face, 2012-ers. That’s assuming, of course, that we survive the near-collision predicted in 2014, 2016, and 2021. Waaaaah.

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